Porsche 911 review

Our Rating: 
5
5.0/5.0
2015 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

Latest 991-generation Porsche 911 is the fastest, most refined iteration of the famous German sports car yet

For: 
Incredible to drive, iconic design with improved interior, surprising practicality
Against: 
Price, options, servicing costs

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The Porsche 911 is now turbocharged – but don’t let that put you off. The addition of turbos to the regular rungs of the 911 ladder have brought even more usable performance and greater efficiency. The racy soundtrack might not be quite as noticeable at the top end, but it still barks like a Porsche should, and with even more tech underneath the 911’s chassis offers even more grip, poise and comfort – which is a very clever trick. 

Best sports cars to buy right now.

Borrowing tech from the halo Turbo and GT3 models, the iconic sports car has moved on once more – and that extends to the interior where there’s more equipment on offer than ever. With over 50 years of development behind it the 911 is still one of the world’s best sports cars.

Our Choice: 
Porsche 911 Carrera S manual

Not many sports cars have stood the test of time like the Porsche 911. Originally launched back in 1963, last year the iconic coupe underwent one of the most significant changes in its 53-year life, so now even the entry-level rungs of the 911 ladder are now turbocharged.

When any new performance machinery hits the market, the 911 is the yardstick it’s judged by, so in turbocharging the Carrera Porsche has kept the 911 at the top of its class, adding even more performance but also improving efficiency.

The engine is still located at the back, but under the newly styled engine cover is a 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six. This extends to the Carrera and Carrera S, including Cabriolet and four-wheel drive models, while the new 911 Targa 4 and 4S also feature the same unit.

That engine has brought extra usability, but on the downside, bolting two turbos to the motor reduces the exhaust volume, so has this engine lost some of its rasping character we’ve come to know and love from Porsche?

Along with the layout and the looks, it’s this noise that has always set the 911 apart from rivals like the Audi R8, Jaguar F-Type and Aston Martin V8 Vantage, and like successive versions of those cars, the 911’s price has risen with this latest model. It now starts from £76,412, but for that you do get a lot more performance and more standard kit compared to its predecessor.

That’s for the entry-level, two-wheel drive Carrera manual, but you can also get this model with Porsche’s seven-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox, while there’s a more powerful Carrera S above this, also available with both transmissions.

And now there’s a 911 to suit pretty much all tastes as the 911 is now available with four-wheel drive and in Cabriolet form.

But if you’re after the daddy of the new 911 range it has to be the Turbo S. As its name suggest, the Turbo was always turbocharged, so it’s stuck, and at £145,773 it has a price tag to match its position in the line-up. Interestingly, Porsche sells twice as many Turbo S models as it does the cheaper Turbo.

Engines, performance and drive

4.9
More torque means more usability and there’s more power too – but those turbos have hit the old car’s rasping high-rev appeal

The new engine is the big news in this 911, but Porsche purists needn’t worry, as it’s a fantastic engine. 

Kicking out 365bhp, the base Carrera can sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.2 seconds if you opt for the PDK box. But those figures don’t tell the whole story – with 450Nm of torque from 1,700rpm to 5,000rpm, it’s incredibly flexible, too.

Whereas you’d have to work the old car’s gearbox hard and keep the revs high to extract the performance, in this new 911 you can leave it in gear and just let the 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six pull.

It’s the same story in the Carrera S, except it’s quicker. Go for the PDK gearbox with Porsche’s Sport Chrono option and you’ll rocket off the line and onto 62mph in 3.9 seconds, making this the first ‘normal’ 911 to dip under the magic four-second barrier.

The S gets 414bhp and 500Nm of torque, so it feels even more ferocious in the mid range. Compared with the previous model, the 911 benefits from a 20bhp boost and 60Nm more torque, and with only 45kg of extra weight, it’s no surprise Porsche has taken performance to the next level.

In the PDK-equipped Carrera 4S that 0-62mph time drops to 3.8 seconds, making it the first four-wheel drive 911 to be faster than its rear-wheel drive sibling. It’s thanks to a new four-wheel drive system borrowed from the Turbo and Turbo S that can distribute power more accurately to the wheels that need it most. The result is incredible traction and scorching pace off the line.

However, while the shove at normal road speeds is much stronger and sustained longer than before, the 911 has lost a little of the old car’s high rpm fireworks. Maximum revs are now capped to 7,500rpm, and that charge towards the rev limiter isn’t as strong as before.

The noise is still there, though, this time overlaid with a faint whoosh from the turbos as they spool up and provide extra power. The standard cars still have that typical, bassy Porsche sound at idle that morphs into a bark in the mid range. Go for the twin-pipe centre-exit Sports exhaust and you’ll liberate a few more decibels, too. 

While you might not have to work the gearbox quite as much, it’s still a pleasure if you want to, as the PDK swaps cogs smoothly and quickly – it’s great in auto mode and gives a delicious blip when changing down using the paddles.

There’s a revised manual option for this model, too, with a twin-plate clutch design that makes the pedal lighter and therefore more usable in traffic. The gear lever throw is short and the action light, but like all Porsche manuals, it’s mechanically precise and lovely to snick up and down the box with. 

Porsche has increased this car’s breadth of ability by fitting its PASM Porsche Adaptive Suspension Management adjustable dampers as standard. This means the car sits 10mm lower than before, but don’t think it means the ride is back breaking.

With Normal and Sport modes for the suspension, you can cruise around in plenty of comfort, even on big wheels. The car soaks up bumps and bad roads well, but if you go for bigger alloys you will feel potholes.

Switch into Sport mode and the 911 takes on a harder character, with firmer damping giving even more body control. It still boasts a supple ride and is fairly comfortable, but we’d save this for sportier driving or track days. If you’re into that sort of thing, it’s worth considering the optional rear-wheel steering system on the S model – at lower speeds the back wheels steer in the opposite direction to the fronts, giving incredible agility and turn-in grip. At high speed the rear wheels steer the same way as the fronts, improving stability in fast corners.

The Turbo S gets this as standard, giving it incredible agility for such a big car. Allied to 572bhp from its larger 3.8-litre twin-turbo flat-six and that revised four-wheel drive system it serves up devastating performance.

This is the first Turbo to dip under 3.0 seconds from 0-62mph, so although Porsche quotes 2.9 seconds it’s engineers say they reliably saw 2.6 in testing. It’s also the first Turbo to hit more than 200mph, topping out an incredible 205mph.

Engines

Both the Carrera and Carrera S engines feel very similar from behind the wheel – that’s because they are. The models both use the same 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six, but the S gets bigger turbos that push more air into the engine, therefore giving it the extra power over the non-S variant.

Throttle response can sometimes be a problem with turbo engines, but here Porsche’s engineers have worked hard to give the feel of a naturally aspirated unit. Push the throttle to the stop, and at anything other than very low revs the 911 takes off rapidly, as you feel the torque swell and sweep the car along.

And if that’s not enough, PDK-equipped cars with the Sport Chrono pack get a new Sport Response button – push it and the gearbox changes down to the perfect gear for a burst of acceleration, while the engine is primed to deliver maximum power. It lasts for 20 seconds and is great for overtaking.

The Turbo and Turbo S share the larger 3.8-litre engine, except the S has bigger compressors for more shove. Power is up to 572bhp, while torque stays the same at 750Nm, but this is more than enough.

There’s also a new Dynamic Boost feature to reduce turbo lag even further, and throttle response is great, even if it’s hard to tell an improvement over its predecessor.

Like the Carrera, as the Turbo S uses exhaust gasses to spin a compressor, forcing more air into the cylinders, this reduces exhaust noise compared to a naturally aspirated engine. It means the Turbo S isn’t as effervescent in the engine bay as some of its main rivals – like the glorious V10 Audi R8 and the raucous McLaren 570S – but that’s a small mark against the very slick powertrain.

MPG, CO2 and running costs

4
New turbocharged engines improve mpg and lower CO2 without impacting performance

Some people bemoan the use of turbos in performance cars like this, but when they add even more performance and boost the 911’s green credentials, it’s hard to argue.

The base Carrera PDK will officially return 38.2mpg and 169g/km CO2, meaning it’ll cost £205 to tax per year, which isn’t bad for a high-performance coupe like this. Go for the manual and the figures aren’t quite so good, but 34.0mpg and 190g/km is still impressive.

The more powerful Carrera S isn’t quite as efficient, as you’d expect, but it delivers a best of 36.7mpg and 174g/km, so it’ll actually cost the same £205 per year to tax as the Carrera.

Go for the more involving manual and these figures are eroded further, with mpg falling to 32.5mpg and CO2 rising to 199g/km. Adding four-wheel drive takes this to 31.7mpg and 204g/km CO2 for the manual and 35.8mpg and 180g/km for the PDK model. 

However, if you’re buying a performance coupe costing £75,000 or more, fuel economy might not be at the top of your priorities list. But as this new 911 is much more usable, the chances are you’ll drive it even more, so eking out what you can from a tank of fuel, improving cruising range, is actually a big benefit. Thank the turbos for that.

Active aerodynamics and stop-start technology help to shave a few more g/km compared to its predecessor, too. With its 64-litre fuel tank, cruising range is up to an impressive 538 miles in the Carrera PDK.

There’s also been an improvement with the Turbo S, so adding to a long list of firsts this is the first 911 Turbo model to break 30mpg. Official figures are 31.0mpg and 212g/km CO2. It features similar active aero features to achieve these numbers.

Insurance groups

Insuring a Porsche isn’t ever going to be a bargain, so expect some hefty quotes, even if you shop around.

Insurance group ratings for the new car haven’t yet been confirmed, but with the old base 911 manual model coming in at group 47, and the S PDK at group 48 out of 50, expect cover costs to be fairly steep.

The Carrera 4 and 4S haven’t been rated yet, but even the base Carrera Cabriolet manual is in the highest group 50 bracket. The Turbo and Turbo S will sit in the same field.

Depreciation

Despite its high purchase price and relative lack of practicality compared to some cheaper performance saloons like the BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63, the 911 resists depreciation well. 

According to our experts, the basic Carrera manual car will hold onto a surprisingly strong 52 per cent of its original value after three years/60,000 miles. At the other end of the range, the Carrera S PDK almost identical, also holding onto 52 per cent.

The Carrera 4 is marginally behind this, while the more expensive Turbo S will depreciate more and is predicted to retain just 45 per cent of its value.

There’ll no doubt be a bit of a wait for the new 911, too, as buyers wanting the latest thing trade in their old cars. This means second-hand prices of the new model should stay high for quite a while until demand is satisfied – but it might also mean values of the older naturally-aspirated car take a bit of a hit.

Interior, design and technology

4.3
More tech and smarter cabin address one of the old 911’s few flaws

The previous 911’s interior was solid and functional, rather than a feast of craftsmanship and interesting design, like in the new Audi R8. However, with this model Porsche has injected some extra tech and more equipment options to give it a more modern feel.

The basic layout is still the same, so the high dashboard and centre console surround you, placing the focus on the driver and giving a nice cocooned feeling.

It’s not the most stylish dash, with an upright centre console and flat fascia, but material quality is excellent and it feels solidly screwed together. Plus there are some neat little features, such as the two cupholders that pop out of the thin strip in the dash. 

However, the big news is the updated PCM Porsche Communication Management system. The new seven-inch touchscreen recognises swipe gestures just like a smartphone, so you can swish side to side from menu to menu. Plus, real-time traffic info and online navigation now come as standard, while Apple CarPlay is also available.

Porsche says it’s also developing the system for Android users, and with the Porsche Car Connect app you can check the status of your car remotely, including features such as fuel level and remaining range, as well as folding the wing mirrors remotely.

As with all 911s, the car’s clever 2+2 layout remains. This means there are two small seats for young children – the back rests can be folded down to create a larger luggage space as well, complementing the 145-litre boot in the car’s nose. It’s a surprisingly usable shape and is big enough for at least two overnight bags. 

Other neat features include the digital screen next to the central rev counter – this gives different readouts including car and audio info, as well as the sat-nav map, so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road for too long. 

You can personalise the interior of the 911, just like the outside. Porsche has added a number of bright exterior colour options for this mid-life model update, which really work well with the subtly revised design.

You might not want to go quite as bright on the inside, but with extras such as contrast stitching, bucket seats, carbon fibre and aluminium trim inlays, there’s plenty of scope to customise the cabin to your tastes.

Porsche Exclusive allows customers to match the interior and exterior of their car to their favourite colour, while you can also choose different hues for the seat belts. There’s even a choice of steering wheels, and both are now smaller than before, making the 911 feel even quicker to respond to inputs at the wheel.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

As above, the higher-res graphics on the new infotainment system improve its functionality. It’s also more responsive, and the gesture recognition is a nice touch – literally. USB, Bluetooth and sat-nav all come as standard, while you can upgrade the system with a better stereo.

Connected services are now available, further improving the 911’s usability, which has been a big target for Porsche with this 991.2 update.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

3.7
Surprising practicality means the Porsche 911 is more usable than you might think

With a low nose and front bumper, you might think there wouldn’t be much room underneath the 911’s ‘bonnet’. However, there’s 145 litres of luggage room in the two-wheel drive version.

This drops to 125-litres in the four-wheel drive Carrera 4 due to the front differential eating into room, but it’s still a surprisingly usable space. Plus there’s that area behind the front seats – if you fold the rear chairs down you’ll find another 260 litres of room on offer.

However, they’re best used for small children when they’re up, as adults will feel very cramped back there due to the sloping roofline.

There are plenty of different seat options available, but even the standard electrically adjustable seats offer lots of comfort and support. Sports seats are standard, with four-way adjustment, while you can upgrade to Sports seats Plus or Adaptive Sports seats Plus. 

The standard Sports seats provide the best balance between long-distance cruising and fixing you in place on a twisty road. However, if you want even more figure-hugging seats to hold you through fast corners, there are carbonfibre-backed two-piece bucket seats available.

Size

As this updated 991-generation 911 is based on the same chassis, the car’s physical size is broadly the same. Although the 911 has grown over the years, it’s still one of the smaller GTs on sale today, which combined with the quick steering makes it easy to place on the road. For reference, the new Carrera is 4.5 metres long, 1.98 metres wide across the door mirrors and 1.3 metres high. 

The Carrera 4 features a 40mm wider body at the back, so watch those rear wheels when parking.

Visibility is good, and as all 911s share a similar profile, thankfully the Porsche is easy to park and manoeuvre. Front and rear parking sensors are available to help out here, as is a reversing camera.

Despite the lower ride height, the long coupe doors mean it’s easy to get in and out of for a sports car, and the low front bumper means you don’t have to lift bags very high to get them into the boot.

There’s also a nose lifting kit available, which raises the front of the car hydraulically to improve ground clearance when going over speed bumps or ramps.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Legroom in the back is limited, but this is not meant to be a full four-seater – those occasional rear seats are a bonus. In the front there’s lots of room, and the 911’s cabin manages to combine a cossetting, driver-focused feel with enough space and comfort for longer journeys.

There’s plenty of adjustment as well, and with a steering wheel that moves in and out as well as up and down, it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position. With its low-slung seating, headroom isn’t an issue, but you still get a great view of the road ahead thanks to the car’s plunging bonnet. 

If you’ll be carrying young children, you can specify an Isofix option for the front passenger seat, while the front airbag can be disabled.

Boot

As we’ve mentioned, the boot is a good size for a sports car, but importantly, it’s also a good shape. In the two-wheel drive model the luggage bay is deep and square, so it’s more practical than it might first appear. It’s not big enough to need a luggage net or any tie down points, however. 

Reliability and Safety

4.5
911 mixes solid build quality with robust mechanicals so should prove reliable

Lots of Porsche’s road car tech has been developed on the track, and the brand’s big motorsports presence means good things for road car reliability. If you can prove yourself in a 24-hour non-stop race, road miles shouldn’t be too much of a problem. 

As a result, Porsche is a consistent performer in our annual Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, and in 2015 it equalled its 2014 result of sixth place overall. It scored a fourth place for build quality, too.

Safety is strong on this car, and although Euro NCAP doesn’t crash test the 911, expect it to stand up well to an impact. There are plenty of electronic systems to keep a watch over you, including standard post-collision braking to reduce the effects of a secondary impact and PSM Porsche Stability Management.

This 991.2 model features a new PSM Sport setting, which allows the driver a little more margin for error for a bit more fun in safe circumstances. However, if you brake hard enough to trigger the ABS system, PSM will default back to its most restrictive mode. 

On top of this buyers can also go for features like lane change assist, adaptive cruise control and LED headlights, as well as upgraded carbon ceramic brakes for increased stopping power – although the top-spec Turbo S gets these as standard.

Warranty

All Porsches come with a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty, as well as three years’ roadside assistance. This is pretty much the industry standard.

Servicing

With a brand like Porsche, servicing isn’t going to be cheap. Due to the unique layout, with the engine in the rear, access is difficult, so jobs can sometimes take longer to complete than on a regular car. 

Servicing prices for the new 911 haven’t been released yet, but we don’t expect them to differ much from the previous model, so you’ll be looking at around £485 for a minor service and £615 for a major service.

The saving grace is the car’s service intervals are every two years or 20,000 miles, so you’ll be able to go longer than usual between routine maintenance appointments, which makes the prices that bit more bearable.

Last updated: 23 May, 2016